Have 30 Monarch Cats in house in November-some rearing questions

Monarch-Ma-so.cal(10 Southern CA.)November 12, 2013

I know that for most butterfly raisers the season is over, but here we are still having some 80+ daytime temps, and there are still eggs being deposited. I now have around 30 cats indoors, brought in as eggs or young instars. Last year I took them in as 4th-5th instars, and they emerged with OE, some worse than others. I wish they weren't out there to "have" to rescue! !

-I'm thinking of covering the milkweed bushes with blankets at night because of lowering nightime temps, to ensure that I'll have enough food for these guys. I'm battling a host of insects and black mold on the outdoor milkweed as it is. The cooler night-time temps are slowing new growth. Is heavy gauge black plastic sheeting good or better to cover plants at night?

-Am wondering why my 3rd or 4th instars go from a nice yellow and black color to a much darker version, radically darker-so much so that I feel I have to isolate them in different rooms. No emergees yet to know how the "suntanned" ones will come out. Could it be that by adding a trace of liquid plant food to the water that the stems are in, the nitrogen causes them to have darker skin? Maybe having no sun they got darker to try to absorb more ultraviolet light? They get filtered light next to windows, no direct sun. I am baffled.

-Does anyone know what natural nutrient or ? could be added to the water that the stems are in to prolong the life of the stems instead of a trace amount of (Schultz) Liquid plant food...I add it because the stems and tender growth hold up much better with it.

-Anyone know of where to buy a good but inexpensive microscope online? With at least 100X and lighted. About a year ago I saw a link for buying an adequate microscope for $40 on some forum, but didn't write it down and can't find it anymore. Maybe I have to call M. Watch. M Watch is re-vamping their forum it seems.

-One "J" hanging cat has formed a greenish glob-mass at the point where the silk pad must be under the mass. It's attached to a vertical milkweed stem. I'll add a photo when I replace the dead camera batteries.

Am a little worried-I had one J die 10 days ago after attaching to a stick from outside, I wondered if it reacted to the type of wood or was black death? That one reacted at attachment point with globby black mass then turned black from the attachment point on. Also several larvae died from (I'm guessing) black death when I was doing eggs in containers-so I switched to stems in water.

My type of milkweed is narrow and relatively thin for a container-dries out very fast. I would add a few drops of water and must have created a bacteria, fungus or virus soup, I'm guessing. The cats looked fine until a sudden black death at various instars. I'm on the learning curve..This new batch is being raised on stems in water only.

-If the milkweed leaves are washed in dilute bleach in water, could the product that's used in fish tanks to de-chlorinate the water be used to de-chlorinate the MW leaves? then rinsed? Any one try this?

-I'm worn out -feels like changing diapers all day. :) Thanks for any advice!

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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

You have lots of questions, so I'll try to do my best to answer them. Your caterpillars are darker because of cooler temps. From what I've read, it allows them to absorb more light/heat.

At this time of the year, diseases and pests are rampant. Make sure the containers you are using are bleached in between groups of caterpillars. You can google Monarch diseases to get information and photos to help you ID your problem.

As for blankets over your plants, there is a fabric that you can purchase that gives several degrees of protection. It's white and allows light to penetrate. Also, sheets are great. I use them here to protect tomatoes from frost. I wouldn't use black fabric.

As to chlorine residue, I've never worried about it. You could rinse with purchased spring water if you are concerned or rinse in cooled boiled water. Or you can even agitate water in a blender to remove chlorine.

Good luck. I know from experience how stressful it can be when you have problems. I've lost my share of caterpillars to black death and tachnid flies. And I've seen and destroyed chrysalides that exhibited OE. I raised and released approximately 600 Monarchs this year. My last group had the most problems and resulted in fewer adults than any of the earlier groups. I attributed it to the fact that I didn't get them all rescued as eggs. 80% or more of the caterpillars I brought in didn't make it.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 10:47AM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

I can't help with the cats but have some advice about microscopes. There is usually magnification in both the eyepieces and the objective (the piece closest to what you are observing). You multiply the two magnifications to get the total. if you need 100X TOTAL magnification, you could get a microscope with 10X eyepieces and a 10X objective, or 5X eyepieces and 20X objective, etc.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 9:12PM
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Monarch-Ma-so.cal(10 Southern CA.)

butterflymomok---congratulations on mothering 600 this year!! That's an amazing awesome accomplishment!! Yes, it is stressful raising them. Thank you so much for your tips and input. And mostly for your contribution to the world of Monarchs!

My J not-yet-a-pupa died. I will post a picture of it with the green gel at the attachment point last night, then today. I will have to find out what this could be. I'm not sure I've seen this disease in my google searches.

I have 2 third instars that have been hanging upside down by a small silk pad for 12 hours-will post a picture. They didn't even get dark skin yet..

I'm thinking I will cut my milkweed back next year around July, to get new growth for the Sept-Oct. "last" seasoners, then cut it back by 3/4 or more in October to discourage egg laying. Because this isn't worth the stress and time devoted to have them be dying. A few littermates of the J who died are getting ready to pupate-I am not feeling good about them, or any of them, actually.
Thanks !

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 1:03AM
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Monarch-Ma-so.cal(10 Southern CA.)

Thank you socalgal for the information on microscopes. I will print that since I know nothing about them. I used the local vet's microscope last winter to check for OE. I told them I'd get my own microscope this year. I appreciate the info.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 1:10AM
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Monarch-Ma-so.cal(10 Southern CA.)

Here is a picture of the J cat today who had the green gel last night. Sad. Interesting the extra silk that was spun all around, maybe he knew he needed extra support. He was unable to push his skin off at all. :(

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 1:17AM
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Monarch-Ma-so.cal(10 Southern CA.)

And here are my two young third instars hanging upside down for 12 hours or longer. I haven't seen this done before! It's looking bad.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 1:25AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

I have read that Tropical MW can harbor diseases if it is in a place where it survives the winters. Here it dies, and has to be replanted each year. Cutting back the MW during the season is a good idea. I had to do it to keep up with feeding the caterpillars, so I had a flush of new growth for the fall brood. Having said that, I have never seen anything like the first photo with the green gel. It appears the caterpillar is bleeding at the site of the silk pad. Something is definitely not right.

Valerie Evans has a Facebook gallery of diseases and parasites. She has been involved in raising Monarchs found as caterpillars in her backyard, and documenting the results for Monarch research. She mentioned that it can be depressing. I will look up Valerie's full name so you can go to her FB page. She used to have a website full of awesome information, but something happened recently that caused her to close it.

And, finally, one of the FB Monarch pages reported that Monarchs in California are continuing to lay eggs instead of entering diapause because of the Tropical Milkweed. This is of concern to Monarch researchers. So another reason to cut back the plants in the fall and discourage egg laying.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 4:29PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Here is a link to Valerie Evanson's FB page.

Here is a link that might be useful: Valerie Evanson's Garden

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 4:32PM
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Monarch-Ma-so.cal(10 Southern CA.)

Thank you butterflymomok. I remember the Evan's site, was it called Evan's art ?
I only grow the native Ca milkweed that is indigenous to my area. It was growing in my b/y for 40 years at least, it was here when we moved in and the prior / original owner didn't landscape. It's native to most of Ca down to Northern Baja Ca.

It's too bad that the tropical MW has been sold throughout the U.S. at nurseries, even the big box home improvement/building stores not to mention names.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, you've been such a help. There oought to be a 24 hour Monarch Mother's hotline during the Monarch season ! Which is almost year round in some states it seems.

Would you euthanize the cat I photographed today, below? He is so messed up looking, yet is a voracious eater. Do you freeze them?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 9:45PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

No, I wouldn't euthanize him. I'd watch him. The antennae aren't normal, but the coloring is due to cooler temps. Isolate and watch!


    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 2:06PM
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